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Move the Chains: Chris Duderstadt 8/28Photo Credit: Chris Duderstadt

After getting home from having dinner with my fiancée, fiancée’s mom, fiancée’s sister and my mom on Friday night, I figured I would check Twitter (or X, whatever it’s called now…) to see some final scores for Week 1 in Missouri. Rather than seeing final scores, I saw that a bunch of games were still in the third quarter. Considering how brutally hot it was on Friday, it was a smart move to push back kickoff times by an hour or so.

So, I pulled up the live stream of a matchup that featured two of the best teams in the metro—Liberty North vs. Lee’s Summit North. Lee’s Summit North was leading 21-17 when I tuned in and held on for a 27-20 victory over Liberty North. The little bit of the game I watched (and listened to after the live stream unfortunately went down with about five minutes left) made me that much more excited for things to get started on the Kansas side this week.

Of course, I’m looking forward to seeing if the defending champs can repeat. Can Mill Valley win a fifth consecutive state title? The Jaguars have several key returners in the trenches, highlighted by defensive end Jayden Woods and offensive tackle Gus Hawkins. But Mill Valley does have some big question marks as well with replacing Hayden Jay at quarterback and long-time defensive coordinator Drew Hudgins, who is now the head coach at Blue Valley North.

The other Kansas City area defending state champion on the Kansas side is Bishop Miege. After winning six straight 4A state titles from 2014-2019, the Stags are looking to go back-to-back after winning it all again in 2022. Like Mill Valley, the Stags are also replacing a multi-year starter at quarterback in Mac Armstrong. Armstrong’s top target, Isaiah Coppage, also graduated in the spring, but Miege still has plenty of offensive weapons back for 2023, including receiver Teryn Jackson and running back David Garcia. Jeremy Schleicher and Baker North are expected to highlight an experienced offensive line for the Stags.

Expecting big things from Mill Valley and Miege isn’t exactly new, though. One of my favorite aspects of the 2022 season was how wide-open things were in 6A on the Kansas side. Gardner-Edgerton was a two-point conversion away in overtime from winning its first ever state title. Can Olathe Northwest establish itself as a contender again after making a run to the state semifinals? There were times where the 2021 6A champ, Blue Valley Northwest, and 2020 6A runner-up, Olathe North, looked like they could be the teams to beat last season. They figure to be some of the top contenders again in 2023.

In 5A, De Soto and Blue Valley Southwest have made deep postseason runs for the past several seasons, but everyone knows that the road to a state title runs through Mill Valley. In 4A, it could very well be a dogfight again between Miege, St. James, and St. Thomas Aquinas. But you can’t forget that Eudora has pushed Miege to the limit in the postseason two years in a row.

Miege coach Jon Holmes and Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee will be the first ones to tell you the respective focuses of their teams isn’t on defending their state titles. It’s their Week 1 opponents (Blue Valley North for Miege and Olathe Northwest for Mill Valley). Until the Week 1 games get underway on the Kansas side, enjoy this nice weather while we have it and make sure to stay hydrated. It looks like we all be trying to beat the heat for the first couple of weeks of the season.